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Tag Archives: ACRL Information Literacy Standards
The current status
To keep up with the progress of redefining IL, Keiser’s detailed report on ACRL’s work is rather helpful. (Barbie E. Keiser is an information resources management consultant located in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area.)
Reimagining Information Literacy Competencies
“Change Literacy” and the future libraries
Brian Mathews of Virginia Tech suggests to put “change [as a noun] literacy” into consideration for the ongoing revision of definition of Information Literacy. Change literacy is, describes Mathews, “the ability to anticipate, create, adapt, and deal with change (in the broadest since) [sense, I’d guess] as a vital fluency for people today.” The rationale is “If we treat change as a literary [literacy, I’d guess] then we can better prepare students for the challenges they will face tomorrow.” Despite the somewhat awkward term, Mathews’ view of “change literacy” reflects the evolving concept of literacy. His blog post about it can be viewed at
On a separate topic, a recent essay by the same author, “Librarian as Futurist: Changing the Way Libraries Think about the Future” appears in July 2014 issue of portal. He advocates “What will libraries be in the future? They will become whatever their users need.” His statement, while inspiring, has raised questions: how do we decide user’s actual need (in what scope and at what level(s))? Who decides user’s need (user-initiated or librarian-initiated or both)? These are the issues that deserve to be discussed.
Citation: portal: Libraries and the Academy, Volume 14, Number 3, July 2014 pp. 453-462.
Among the 2013 top twenty articles recommended by ALA Library Instruction Round Table, <http://www.ala.org/lirt/sites/ala.org.lirt/files/content/archive/2014jun.pdf> Hoffmann and Wallace’s “Intentional Informationists” is of particular interest. [See citation below] The case study depicts IL practice at California State University-Channel Islands, a young institution of ten years history (as of the time the article was written). Their goal is to shift “the emphasis from literate to informed, from passive receptors of information to intentional users and consumers of information.” The authors define an “intentional informationist” as a person with “the contextual, reflective and informational skills to identify information opportunities, tackle complex information problems and pitfalls, and provide solutions or considerations that do not just meet her individual needs.” (Full text can be retrieved in ScienceDirect)
Hoffmann, Debra, and Amy Wallace. “Intentional informationists: Re-envisioning information literacy and re-designing instructional programs around faculty librarians’ strengths as campus connectors, information professionals, and course designers.” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 39.6 (2013): 546-551.
ACRL’s IL standards to be updated
In June 2013, Steven J. Bell (the immediate past president of ACRL 2012-13) reported in ACRL’s blog that because the current standards “are showing their age”, a special task force was established to update the standards and expand the definition of information literacy. The revision, according to the co-chairs of the task force, will be less overwhelming and more flexible (no library jargon, thus, understandable to other disciplines). “Information fluency” was mentioned in the charge of the task force; multiple literacies (transliteracy, media literacy, digital literacy, visual literacy, etc.) are to be included; and student’s role as content creator will be addressed.
For more information:
Rethinking ACRL’s Information Literacy Standards: The Process Begins
Task Force Prospectus on Work Plan
ACRL Board of Directors’ Response to Task Force Prospectus
Evaluating Strategies for Evaluating Sources
Many faculty members in the library and beyond strive to help students learn to evaluate the information sources they use, whether in print, or on websites, or presented as images, audio, or video. Evaluating sources is a core competency of information literacy, and is highlighted by the Association of College and Research Libraries in ACRL Information Literacy Standard 3:
The information literate student evaluates information and its sources critically and incorporates selected information into his or her knowledge base and value system.
I’ll be honest: Standard 3 has always been my favorite of the ACRL standards, and I spend lots of my instructional brainstorming time on ways to incorporate more discussion of evaluating sources into my teaching. One of the first things I read on the topic when I first became a librarian was Marc Meola’s article in portal: Libraries and the Academy called Chucking the Checklist. Meola suggests that librarians stop using checklists of evaluation criteria — often accuracy, expertise, currency, relevance, etc. — to teach students to evaluate websites. Instead, we can approach instruction on evaluating sources as an opportunity to discuss the library’s vetted resources like article databases, and to use comparison and corroboration to contrast websites and library resources.
I enjoy Meola’s article and agree that the checklist approach is simplistic, however, there’s often not enough time in our instructional sessions with students to delve as deeply into a discussion of the differences between information sources as Meola suggests. So I confess that I do use checklists, though I try to contextualize and discuss the criteria with students, either individually or as a group, while they search. I also like to frame this as source interrogation: what questions can students ask about the source, and what do the answers tell us?
At City Tech we started out (following the lead of many other academic libraries) by using a set of questions to ask about sources created by the Merriam Library at California State University, Chico. This list of questions is called the CRAAP Test — guaranteed to get a giggle out of even the sleepiest class — which stands for currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose. Each criteria includes several questions to ask about the source. It’s a long and thorough list, and it’s deservedly popular in academic libraries.
Last week I followed a Twitter link that led me to another set of criteria for evaluating sources, this one called the SMELL Test. This guide from PBS.org’s MediaShift website urges readers to consider the source, motivation, evidence, logic, and what was left out of the information they read about online. Since it’s presented in article form it’s not exactly a checklist per se, but I think the SMELL test would make an interesting article for students to read and discuss.
Finally, I thoroughly enjoyed this 13-minute TED Talk from journalist Markham Nolan on How to Separate Fact and Fiction Online. In it, Nolan details the tools and strategies that journalists use to check sources and verify information in images and video even as a news story is developing. For example, he discusses how photos of Hurricane Sandy were fact-checked. I think students often forget that they should evaluate their image, audio, and video sources as well as text-based sources, and I think this video can help us make that case.
Do you have strategies or materials that you use to help students learn to think critically about information sources? Share them in the comments if so!